You may have missed your summer vacation this year due to the lockdown, but you won’t have to compromise on your winter break. Parts of Himachal Pradesh received their first flakes of snow a few days ago. And while the mountain state is pretty all year round, there’s something magical about it blanketed in snow. From Manali to Mashobra, these homes have some of the most gracious hosts and glorious meals. Here’s the list:
19 gorgeous homestays in Himachal Pradesh
Pinewood Sunrise, Kasauli
Just about an hour away from the busy town of Kasauli is this quiet home that offers all the solitude you need. Be ready to check out from your daily routine; there’s no Wi-Fi or television here. But there are other things you may get hooked on to—scenic views of the majestic Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas and the perfume of pine trees. Soak in the magic from the spacious living room, bedroom, fully equipped kitchen or the best part of the home—the sprawling terrace. From the lap of the Himalayas, the home will take you on a tour around the world. The hosts have decorated it with souvenirs from their travels all over—Afghan cushions, Iranian Tabriz carpets, a Russian vase, Japanese coffee service, Italian chinaware and Polish crystal wine glasses. Spend your evenings snuggling up by the fireplace or savouring some fresh barbeque off the grill. Doubles from Rs10,011 per night. Website.
Sanjiv’ Aira Holme Retreat, Shimla
Tucked away in the quiet pocket of Chotta Shimla, Sanjiv’s Aira Holme Retreat is a 10-minute drive from the city centre. The house served as a billiards room in 1920, before the owner Sanjiv and her husband, Birinder “Billy” Singh opened doors to guests in 2012. The homestay is now run by Billy and their daughter in her memory. The two rooms with ensuite bathrooms boast sit outs that offer serene views of the mountains and deodars swaying in the breeze. Laze around in the manicured gardens, read a book in the cosy attic or play a game of catch with the three friendly doggos. Doubles from Rs6,000, including breakfast. Note: The owners are following a strict screening process to ensure safety of their guests. The two rooms are now only being let out to people from the same family or group. Website
Nabokov’s Cottage, Jibhi
In Tandi village, about 8km from Jibhi market, sits this gorgeous wooden home on the mountain’s edge. Peek out and all you will see is pine forests shrouded in mist and blue skies beyond. The cosy two-bedroom home is kitted out with a desk indoors as well as one in the patio, giving you plenty of space to work from. You will also receive two dongles of Airtel and Jio, so you’re never run out of connection. Go on a guided walk with the warm and friendly host of the home, Daleep, along the surrounding apple and pear orchards or wheat and maize fields. Sip on some wine on the lawn as you snuggle under Himachal’s starry skies or play a game of catch with Nabokov, the friendly dog whom the home is named after. From Rs4,999 for the entire cottage that accommodates four people, including breakfast. Website
Darang Tea Estate, Kangra Valley
The 150-year-old home of Neeru and Naveen Bhandari might just be the place to isolate from the world. On 70 acres, there are just four cottages adorned with bougainvillea, and each with private verandahs that overlook the majestic Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas. There are over 500 books you can borrow from a small library at the estate should you wish to curl up and read by the fireplace. Savour food and juices made from fresh home-grown vegetables and fruits. Stroll around the tea gardens, while you’re serenaded with the gurgling of mountain streams. Don’t forget to slot in some play time with Casper, Diana and Brandy, the friendly resident dogs. The cottages range from Rs4,000 to Rs9,000 depending on the number of guests. The property is about 24km from Gaggal Airport. Website
The PlumCove, Mashobra
Never let the beauty of Himachal out of sight at this cosy, little apartment, which is a 30-minute drive from Shimla town. Whether it’s the two rooms, the living room or the terrace, each space offers panoramic views of the valley with large windows. The best spot to enjoy them, though? Cocooned in the snug swing in the living room. The home is equipped with high-speed Internet, an LCD TV and speakers, though you have every reason to plug out. A fully loaded kitchen is at your disposal in case you wish to rustle up a meal. Warm up by the bonfire or soak in some winter sun on the terrace. We bet you will want to spend most of your day on that lovely swing, though. From Rs5,999 for a two-bedroom apartment that can accommodate four people. Website
Taara House, Manali
Fancy working from paradise? This charming chalet sits on a 6,600ft hilltop and boasts a dining room with a glass ceiling and floor-to-ceiling glass windows. With neverending views of the Himalayas and pine forests, you won’t find the need to fake your Zoom background ever again. The chic two-bedroom home is crafted from Burma teak, English oak and pine wood and is kitted out with Scandinavian lights, customised furniture by Anthologie Design and a fine art collection. Feast on a Kashmiri, Indian or Italian meal by the in-house cook. Curl up by the fireplace or gaze at Himachal’s starry skies through the glass ceiling. Maybe this is what heaven looks like. Starts from Rs16,000 for the entire chalet with two rooms. Website.
Theog Cottage, Shimla
About an hour away from the bustle of Shimla or Kufri, lies the town of Theog brimming with deodars and fruit orchards. This wooden home is perched on a ridge that overlooks this sleepy town. Only part of the house, the one-bedroom, living room and open spaces are opened up to guests. The room with a sit out is kitted out with floor-to-ceiling windows, inviting the beauty of the hilltown indoors. Play a game of pool, savour a home-cooked Himachali meal and snuggle around the bonfire in the verandah. Doubles from Rs2,679. Website.
The Mirage at Andretta, Dharamshala
Set against the backdrop of the Dhauladhar range and the Shivalik Hills, The Mirage is an ideal escape for art cognoscente. The home is located just down the path from the artist’s colony of Andretta near Palampur. The first stone for the colony was laid 75 years ago by theatre personality Norah Richards, when she acquired the land from the District Commissioner of Kangra. Besides a residential for students of the art, the home stay has grown to include yoga enthusiasts and theatre groups as well. The property has three cottages with eclectic bedrooms decorated with curios and accompanied by a living, dining and reading room, and a kitchenette. During your down time, wind down in the heated pool or swimming pool or just sit back and watch the sleepy town go by. Doubles from Rs6,300 for a room and Rs26,000 for the entire cottage with four rooms. Website
Sunnymead Estate, Shimla
Nestled in oak and rhododendron forests of Shimla, this two-storey cottage is not accessible by a vehicle, but is a short, uphill walk to the doorstep. It’s worth every step, though. The home looks straight out of a fairytale, with vintage chairs, Afghan carpets and bedside books. Each of the three rooms here have a distinct charm, some appointed with four-poster beds and the other adorned with Oriya brass lamps. Breakfasts are four-course meals, whereas tea is accompanied by something savoury and a cake. The colonial-era home was built by the lively host Madhavi Bhatia’s great-grand uncle, which her mother inherited in 2010. Bhatia moved from Delhi to restore this home a few years ago. But before you meet the owner, prepare to be greeted by an army of pets—five dogs and two cats also reside at the Sunnymead. Doubles from Rs7,000. Website.
Chapslee is the erstwhile summer home of the late Raja Charanjit Singh of Kapurthala. The stone home has not been refurbished since Singh bought it over a 100 years ago, keeping its original beauty intact. Lined up with hunting trophies, weapons and family portraits, the home transports you to an era bygone, even though it’s just a short walk from the city centre. Borrow a book from the well-stocked library and curl up by one of three fireplaces, or check out their collection of coins dating back to centuries ago. When it comes to meal time, expect to be treated nothing less than royalty. Singh was a connoisseur of French and Indian food, and his knowledge and recipes have been inherited by his grandson Ratanjit “Reggie” Singh who now runs the home. Think dishes such as murg badam khas, kathal (jackfruit) ka pulao, gosht kali mirch ka pulao and more. Bonus for animal lovers: Tara, a golden retriever, and Thunder, a labrador, and their two pups also call Chapslee home. Doubles from Rs23,000 per night. Website.
Meena Bagh, Ratnari
Delhi’s poor air quality prodded photographer Sanjay Austa to quit the city life and rat race and move to Himachal Pradesh in 2017. About 80km from the busy town of Shimla, he built this beautiful dream abode nestled in the apple orchards of Ratnari,. So that other people could experience the magic of the mountain town, Austa opened up this slice of paradise to guests. The eco-friendly Himachali home crafted from waste wood and mud-plastered walls features four rooms, an attic, lounging areas and single beds, which can accommodate a big party of 15 people. Dogs, cats, hen, lamb—you will never be out of company at this home. Enjoy a romantic, star-lit dinner under the glass-roof ceiling or get a closer look at the skies with the telescope in the living room. Starts from Rs31,000 for the entire four-bedroom home. Website.
Navek-La Country Home, Dharamsala
The highlight of this homestay are the gracious and welcoming hosts. Brigadier Sandhu, a retired army veteran, has enough stories to last you through the stay, while his wife is an excellent cook—consider yourself lucked out if she brings out the apricot mutton curry. The cottage is in Rakkar, just outside of Dharamsala, and comes with a friendly set of pets, a lovely garden and a little stream down below. The views of the Dhauladhar mountains from your room are a bonus. Doubles from Rs 7,000, inclusive of breakfast. Contact:09418028263
Khaddu’s Den, Shimla
Experiencing a writer’s block? Scenic views from Khaddu’s Den will get the words flowing, without burning a hole in your pocket. Writers, artists and journalists will receive a 50% discount on their stay. With wood panels and mud-plastered walls, this home gets pretty close to offering you the traditional Himachali experience. But there are also modern amenities, a 32-inch LCD TV and a heated bathroom. The lodge also offers sumptuous pahari meals on request. Doubles from Rs4,620 per night. Website.
Atop a 5,500ft ridge sits this elegant home that beholds some of the most breathtaking views of Himachal’s majestic mountains and vibrant sunsets. A few sit outs that jut out into the valley, a living room with large windows and a gazebo at the mountain’s edge—there are plenty of nooks and corners to soak in the gorgeousness. Elegant three bedrooms adorned with vintage-style chandeliers, cosy furniture and gleaming fireplaces make up this home. Borrow a book from the library in the living room, feast on a Pahadi meal (all meals are included) or stroll around the property, where you will only hear deodar’s sighing in the wind. This place is a real high for mountain lovers. Doubles from Rs14,500 per night. Website.
Gone Fishing Cottages, Tirthan Valley
Flanked with orchards and farming fields on one side and deodar forests on the other, Gone Fishing Cottages’ location is almost otherworldly. Upendra Kamra and his wife Dimple discovered this hidden gem on one of their road trips, when they decided to stay back forever and call Tirthan valley home. The cottages fall in the eco-zone of the Great Himalayan National Park, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walk along crystal clear streams and discover waterfalls along the trail, spot rare exquisite birds perfect for your Instagram feed, and go fishing; this place is an angler’s paradise, as Tirthan’s waters are always teeming with trouts. Request your chef on call to turn your catch for the day into a sumptuous meal. The rooms have the warmth of a forest cabin and a touch of rustic charm, with stone walls, a lovely spiral staircase that doubles up as a bookshelf and four-poster beds. Doubles from Rs6,000, inclusive of taxes and breakfast. Website.
The Luxurious Penthouse, Naggar
With swanky furniture, brick walls and warm wooden interiors, this two-bedroom home offers luxury in the lap of the Himalayas. The abode sports sizable windows throughout, so the outside always finds its way inside here. Pick apples and plums from the gardens, rejuvenate your mind, body and soul with a session of yoga or request your host, Chandan, to arrange for a trekking or fishing excursion closeby. From Rs10,000 for two rooms and an attic that can accommodate 6 people. Website.
The Jannat View, Mashobra
True to its name, this home really does offer you a slice of the Himalayan paradise. Surrounded by dense pine and cedar woodlands, every space in the three bedroom home screams mountain and forest views. Warm up by the bonfire and enjoy a sumptuous meal hot off the barbeque. This is just the getaway your city-weary soul needs. From Rs7,136 for a three-bedroom home that can accommodate six people. Website.
Raju Bharti’s Homestay, Tirthan Valley
A ropeway above the Tirthan river leads you to this lovely home in Kullu. Every nature lover’s delight, apple and cherry orchards flank three sides and the river teeming with trout the fourth. Mountain biking, fishing, camping, trekking and angling are just some of the many outdoor activities that can be enjoyed here. Retire in one of the eight minimalistic yet cosy rooms. This is just the place you’d want to check into so that nothing distracts you from the great outdoors. Doubles from Rs3,500, inclusive of all three meals. Contact: 09459833124
To spend quality time with a loved one or to catch up on some reading time, head to this traditional Himachali abode with a lovely garden. The pièce de résistance at this home is the wooden staircase that leads to a snug attic that opens up to sweeping views of the Himalayas. Doubles from Rs4,899. Website